Volunteer Week: Bromley sees church work as a chance to give back
BY DENNY SCOTT
For 25 years, Sharon Bromley has been a driving force behind events at the Blyth United Church through the United Church Women, being a part of fundraising, special events and making meals, from inception to clean-up.
“The church fills up a big spot in my life,” she said, adding that she likes to keep busy and she accomplishes that with her volunteer time at the church.
Bromley started volunteering with the church not long after retiring from her job at Braemar Nursing Home, saying that, between her work and living on a farm, she got used to being quite busy. As a cook at Braemar, it just made sense for her to volunteer in the same capacity.
In the past two-and-a-half decades, Bromley has become a key part of the fundraising and meals hosted by the church, and she said there has always been lots to keep her busy, like the Women’s Day Out event organizational group, which started in 1994, but then folded in 2014.
The event, which brought out 300 women at its height, required a dedicated group and, after the group shut down, the church’s calendar had an opening for more ideas.
She was also behind the creation of the church’s drive-through meals, which have become key to the UCW’s fundraising efforts.
The meals started approximately 15 years ago, she said, when she and another volunteer decided to check out the drive-through meals served by Egmondville United Church.
“We went down, got dinner and then, within a couple weeks, were doing something similar here,” she said.
Those meals have become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bromley said, with the most recent, the Valentine’s Day meal, seeing 175 meals served.
“Some people told me no one would come out in the cold for that,” she said. “But we had lots of people out. People wanted a chance to bring that home.”
She said those kinds of events are important because they provide something to the community beyond supporting the church.
“It’s great to have a meal and to be able to give back like that,” she said.
The annual meat pie sales, which take place in the fall and early winter and the depths of winter, are also a big part of Bromley’s calendar, with her spending full days at the church when the pies are being made and sold.
“We sell 6,000 meat pies between our October-November sales and February-April,” she said.
Part of what keeps her coming back to volunteer at the church is the time she gets to spend with other volunteers and members of the UCW.
Before the drive-through meals, she says she and the volunteers are working six to seven hours a day for a week, while they work even longer days prior to the meat pie pick-up days.
It’s worthwhile because she’s helping out and spending time with friends, she said. The COVID-19 lockdowns hurt that ability to connect with other people, she said, so she’s very happy to get back to working alongside the other volunteers this year.
While she said she’s happy with helping, she said the occasional call from people as far away as Toronto saying that the pies are good certainly are appreciated.
“It’s a big job, but those calls help,” she said.
She also said that having helpful clergy goes a long way to making the volunteer hours go by, and says that every minister she’s worked with, up to and including Blyth and Brussels United Church’s current worship leader, Student Minister Alex Jebson have been supportive.
“All the ministers have really had our back with helping out,” she said. “It’s wonderful to do so much catering and have their assistance.”
She went on to say that Jebson does a lot of the “running” of food from the kitchen to the front door for the drive-through meals, as an example of his dedication to the work.
Bromley said that, whether it's her, a minister or anyone else looking to reach out, volunteering is one of the best ways to get to know people and help out your community.
“It’s rewarding, it gets you out of the house and it lets you give back,” she said. “The work is really appreciated by the community.”